Taylor Hicks, Maceo Parker, Big Sam & More: Jam Cruise Revisited
It spans only a few calendar days in January, but Jam Cruise is an eagerly anticipated event the remaining eleven months of the year. We asked Paul McLaren, photographer and “repeat offender”, if Jam Cruise 9 lived up to the pre trip hype.
In a word, “Yes”.
Is the trip well organized?
Cloud 9 does a fantastic job. Everything runs smoothly. There is music played in several venues simultaneously. Fortunately, each band plays twice, and musicians sit in with other bands on stage and in the Jam Room, so there are multiple opportunities to see your favorites. Everything goes off on time, which is important since there is so much to see!
Which bands were your favorites?
I knew that I wanted to see Galactic and Karl Denson, but one of the great things about Jam Cruise is that you’re introduced to new bands and different combinations of musicians. The Jam Cruise is as much about the different artists jamming together as it is about any specific band. This is one of the unique opportunities of Jam Cruise; you hear new sound combinations with each performance.
Probably my favorite show was the Maceo Parker Super Jam for the variety of artists who came together. Maceo orchestrated a great flow of artists through the set and it was a phenomenal combination of sounds and instruments. From 4 of the best sax players in the world jamming together, to Maceo passing notes back and forth with Pee Wee Ellis and every combination between, it was an awesome set. Taylor Hicks came out and added to the mix, jamming on the harmonica.
Big Sam’s Funky Nation was a great choice for the sail away party. He’s a good showman and kicked off the cruise with lots of energy. And again, this is not like going to a normal venue to see Funky Nation, this is Jam Cruise; Corey Glover, Leo Nocentelli, and Fred Wesley all joined the jam to amp up leaving the dock. Sam was one of the artists who got into the themes and costumed for Future Night – metallic green jumpsuit and oversized glasses.
Do the artists really interact with the passengers?
I dropped my lens cap going up the stairs. I got halfway back down and there was Karl Denson, who had crawled under the stairs and now had lens cap in hand. My friends and I had dinner in the Japanese restaurant; Ian Neville came by and sat down. We chatted casually for about 45 minutes, learning more about his family, Dumpstaphunk tours, and his impressions of Jam Cruise.
I met Taylor Hicks just before he hosted “The Gong Show” – nice guy; like most of us he was working on about 3 hours of sleep after too many long nights in the Jam Room! On stage, the lack of sleep overcame his normally smooth delivery as he kept referring to the “conTEXTants” and at one point he said “Let’s welcome the next conTEXTant to the GAng Show”. It just shows what this sleep “depredation” exercise we love as the Jam Cruise can do! In all the Gong Show was hilarious and everyone had a fantastic time.
Artists have separate lines to board the ship, and can disembark first. Everyone is so tired, though, that the artists often sleep in and end up in line with everyone else on that last day. It was interesting to hear all the various artists in the Customs lines shout back and forth to see who made the best progress, those in the artist dedicated queue, or those mixed in with the numerous passenger lines. Nigel Hall won out in the far right passenger line; I will try for that one next year!
How are artists scheduled for the Jam Room?
There’s a Jam Room host each night. The Room is open from midnight to whenever it winds down, usually about sunrise, with the room usually fully packed. The host invites a variety of artists to join the jam at specific times during the night, each staggered to create a flow of sound and energy that moves the night along. Some artists just pop in to join in the magic as they happen through from other venues. It always comes together to produce great sounds, though one night, Nigel Hall walked in, just reached over and started playing as second player on the piano. When he realized it wasn’t a fit just then, he left and then came back a bit later to join in the set at the perfect time. Taylor Hicks’ high energy harp playing added to several of the sets.
Already pre-booked, wouldn’t miss it for anything!
A gallery of photos from Jam Cruise 9, courtesy of Paul McLaren.
Taylor Hicks and Maceo Parker Super Jam
Big Sam brought his Funky Nation
Costumed passengers on Future Night
An ice cream treat
Ivan Neville at the keys
Taylor Hicks performs with Galactic
Liking what they’re hearing
Taylor Hicks on harp with Galactic
The Gong Show
It’s all good
That’s all, folks!
For more photos from Mr. McLaren: